Friday was World Environment Day, and here in India many different newspapers covered different facets of the environmental challenges facing India. An excellent new paper, Mint (published in part by the Wall Street Journal) had an informative report on the current environmental challenges facing the country. The report outlined five major environmental issues facing the country; certainly not the only ones, but a good place to start learning about the work that needs to be done to create a sustainable foundation for growth here:
Water availability in India is â€œrapidlyâ€ running dry and is an issue that needs to be confronted soon before it faces a severe water crisis. Only 67% of rural Indians have access to water in their homes (as opposed to 95% in 2005). Solutions can start with rainwater harvesting for large buildings and fixing distribution losses.
Invasive species â€œare the second biggest threat to biodiversity after deforestation.â€ India loses a great deal of valuable plants and animals because of invasive species, but at the same time, many of the introduced crops, such as soya and wheat, are financially viable and important. Solutions could include microreserves for native plants
The loss of natural habitats creates situations in which lions, leopards, and monkeys, amongst other animals, create major problems for humans in their daily interactions. As animals ruin property and take lives, humans are tempted to start killing important parts of the environment. The main solution here is not ruining the animalsâ€™ native environments, or creating reserves.
Indiaâ€™s energy grid is direly overtaxed, resulting in major power shortages for much of the country. Building efficiency measures, such as those suggested by the Obama Administration in America (reconfiguring buildings to make them more sustainable and making sure future construction is more environmentally friendly, including natural cooling techniques and solar panels.
Mining causes significant soil erosion and deforestation, in addition to forced relocation of tribal peoples. Mining needs to be regulated more strictly by states to prevent widespread illegal mining and environmental ruin.
The crux of all of these reports on World Environment Day is that Indiaâ€™s rapid growth is driving equally rapid environmental destruction. An argument often put forth in developing countries is that it is unfair to ask people to make environmental sacrifices during a period of growth and industrialization when Western countries did not have to make the same choices. Yet, as we get a glimpse of above, India, as a dense country of 1 billion people, faces unique challenges that need unique responses. Action to solve these problems now, even at the expense of slightly slower growth in the future, will allow development to be sustainable and last longer. The new elections have ushered in a lot of optimism for Indiaâ€™s economic future; hopefully the government will recognize the need for smart and sustainable development policies. Wherever you are in the world, there are many things you can do to help make the world a cleaner and greener place.
P.S.: Sorry for the lack of links, the wireless at my grandmother’s in Bombay is just a little slower than the one in Chicago =)